Okay, but some problems
I bought the Geo Metro in Canada in 2005, with 72,000 km; now a year and 8 months later it has 133,000 km. It is the 1.3, four cylinder saloon (with a trunk), and the five-speed manual gearbox.
At the time, I was looking for an economical manual car that was clean inside and out, and would get me to and from work for three years. This car seemed to fit my requirements, and as a bonus it had a log of the service history of the previous, two, owners: showing regular maintenance and rustproofing.
Soon I noticed the car came to a slight jerk on stopping. I felt the wheels for heat, and in this way found that the right front brake was dragging. On inspection I determined that the caliper sliders were corroded, and that their rubber boots were split on both sides. I bought replacement slides, and fitted the right side. The problem seemed to be corrected, but after a couple of weeks a rattle developed from the vicinity of that wheel.
I thought the rattle might be a suspension component, so took the car to a mechanic. He said that the right inner tie-rod end was loose, so I said he could change it. Unfortunately the rattle remained (when hitting a bump or rough road surface). Eventually I found that the caliper was rattling because the replacement sliders I put in were a little narrower that the originals.
I thought the sliders were poor quality parts, but later, when working on the rear brakes (which were vibrating due to the shoes having worn unevenly) I discovered that although my car is a '94, it uses '95 brake parts all round. This, despite the '95 being a new model. Subsequently, I could not replace just the sliders, as they were not available any more: I had to get the complete calipers. Finally, my work on the brakes was finished as I replaced the front brake rotors: also '95 parts.
Before the brakes were all sorted out, other things had occurred: firstly the radiator leaked at the bottom hose connection. I bought a new radiator, but it wasn't the right size. I returned it and bought another one from another parts supplier. It was closer, but still didn't fit. It was too deep by about an inch. I wanted to get the job done, so I modified the bottom bracket, and also had to get a longer bottom hose: the one for the automatic car, which I cut about two inches off. The rad. has been fine since, but I wonder whether I might also have needed a '95 part for the rad. I hadn't discovered the year discrepancy about the brakes yet.
In summary of the above: I can say that getting parts for this car is tricky, and this is a significant PROBLEM in owning this car.
I have also had to replace a ball joint, (which involves replacing the whole control arm), the front struts, and some exhaust sections.
Another PROBLEM is the corrosion of the brake and fuel lines. They are covered underneath by a metal shield, for a section just behind the engine. This collects salty water and bathes the lines in it. Brilliant! Furthermore, the whole system tends to rust, and the lines are convoluted, running next to the varying contours of the underside of the car. This may sometime spell the end of this car: It would be around a thousand dollars to replace them all. So far I replaced a section of brake line where the shield had been, which had rusted off by then. This, despite regular rust-protection documented in the maintenance log.
For a while I had worried that the gearbox was failing. There was a noise with the rotation of the wheels, whichever gear, or neutral. I checked the Internet for gearbox noise, and it didn't seem to be typical of the bearings or of broken teeth. I thought it might be part of the differential. I took it to the Suzuki garage, and their gearbox expert drove it and listened to it. He said he could not give any indication of what it was, or of how much it would cost to fix, but the front desk indicated, I think, $800 just to dismantle it and investigate. The noise became worse over a couple of months. Not knowing what to do, I changed the gearbox oil, which at first didn't seem to help. (The oil had been changed fairly regularly before). Then I changed the oil again, and included a viscosity thickener that is really meant for engine oil. It didn't seem to help at first, but over the next several months the noise gradually faded, and now is gone. Again a possible PROBLEM to highlight: my experience and associated findings indicate that the manual gearbox on these cars is not the strongest part.
I had not wanted to change the timing belt if the brake lines, etc. were going to end the car's life, so I left it. But I think I should do it now. The Metro handbook and G.M. (when I called them) do not specify that the belt has to be changed. However, Suzuki, who made the engine, say that it has to be done at 96,000 km. G.M. also do not carry the part.
So I can finally get to describing the car in general. I think the squarish '94's and earlier may have some advantages over the '95's and up. A few comments in this web-site indicate that the fuel consumption may be better, as the later ones used more fuel for better emissions control. Also, the dashboard plastics and design of the earlier ones is definitely preferable, as it doesn't fade and crack, and still looks new after these thirteen years. In general: there is a lot of glass area, the rear seats fold down, and good use has been made of the relatively small space.
I am a little under six feet tall, and I found the pedals too close, or with the seat back, the steering wheel too far away. I sat in a '07 Suzuki in the Car Show, and was of the same opinion. I had an aching right heel, as it was taking all the weight of my leg, without the seat supporting my thigh. I found it fairly easy to unbolt the front seat, make some small metal upright sections, and end up with the seat 4 c.m. higher at the back and 2.5 c.m. higher at the front. Then I moved the gas pedal about 5 cm forward by modifying the throttle cable connection and bracket at engine. I was seated a little higher, and had to modify the rear-view mirror bracket so that it didn't block my view to the right at traffic lights. Now (for more than a year) I have been comfortable, and no more have leg or foot pain.
Drivability is so-so. The steering is manual, which is good for maintenance, but heavy for parking and in-town maneuvers. I wonder if the wider tires on the Geo model are not appropriate for the Suzuki-designed steering which uses narrower tires. Body roll is significant. The car jiggles over city roads: you get used to it, but what is long exposure to this doing to your spine? The brakes are adequate I think, but not over-powerful. I wonder if a downhill emergency stop with a full load would show up an inadequacy.
The engine's maximum power of around 70 h.p. is achieved at around maximum revs. so it's effectively unattainable. Little power and unnoticeable torque occur at around-town engine speeds, and as the engine is noisy and not particularly revvy, you don't want to be going into higher engine speeds. So - definitely lack-lustre around town. Add to this a notchy gear-shift and a heater that takes 10 minutes to warm the car, and surprisingly this small "city" car is just not as nice in town as many others.
Finally I can come to the car's strong points. Surprise again: This is a great highway car! The power development seems very well matched to the 5th gear ratio, with the car settling into its stride above 100 kph. I couldn't find specs. for the 5th gear ratio, so dragged the car down the road for a certain number of distributer turns, measured the corresponding distance moved, calculated (a factor of 2 or 1/2 is involved for the 4-cycle engine operation) and came up with an answer of about 38 kph for a 1000 r.p.m. : A nice high ratio for a small engine. At 100 kph even the ride settles down, the steering becomes responsive, and engine noise is not so great as to disturb the stereo. So; all day cruising at an economy of: guess what: up to 23 km per litre! I have had over 20 km/L with 4 people plus luggage on a trip through the off-highway roads of Quebec's eastern townships. This is a go-as-far-as-you-like car, and for that I'll forgive it's other failings. I am considering driving it across Canada and around the 'States this summer. Even though the car is older, the simple mechanicals, their visibility, and access to them mean that everything can be easily checked out. No engine covers, hidden spark-plugs, inaccessible belts and starter etc. as I have had to contend with in other cars.
Initially I got 18 km/L on the highway. I tuned up the car, freed the dragging brakes, and did a little better. Over time it got better still, and around 23 km/L happened one summer day on a 190 km run with one passenger. Mixed driving (my commuting) gives 16 km/L in the summer and 14 in the winter. Pure in-town use in the winter would drop to to 12 or less I guess.
So, overall a car with some faults, but I'm keeping mine, and as this model is long gone I'll never be able to find another.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 27th March, 2007